River Cracraft's comeback begins this Thursday, when he'll bench press for scouts at Pro Day. Meanwhile, Riley Sorenson has prepped for Pro Day while juggling his final classes, while Gabe Marks has opted to stand by his NFL Combine scores.
As Washington State’s NFL Draft hopefuls re-convene in Pullman for Pro Day this Thursday, here’s a look at what some of these former Cougars have been doing to prepare for their big pre-draft audition.
River Cracraft: Traversing the bump in the road
Former Washington State receiver River Cracraft watched the NFL Scouting Combine workouts of his ex-teammates Gabe Marks and Shalom Luani, but other than that, paid little attention to the combine that took place in Indianapolis last week.
Had he not torn the ACL in his left knee during WSU’s win against Cal on Nov.12, Cracraft likely would have been in Indianapolis with Luani and Marks.
But Cracraft has long made peace with the initial disappointment that came when he realized the severity of his injury.
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“It’s part of the game,” Cracraft said. “The faster your realize it’s just a part of the process, it’s a lot easier to attack your rehab and not dwell on the ‘Oh my God, I’m injured, it’s my senior year, I’m missing the NFL combine and games.’ Once you accept that, it’s much easier. It took me a couple of weeks to get that stuff out of my head.”
Until Sunday, when he arrived in Pullman to prepare for WSU’s Pro Day on Thursday, Cracraft was training in Irvine, Calif., working through his rehab program, slowly testing his surgically repaired ACL and pushing his limits.
Even though he couldn’t run until three weeks ago, Cracraft kept his reflexes sharp and his hands soft by catching passes from quarterbacks working on offseason training – a list that includes Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, Los Angeles Rams quarterback and 2016 No. 1 draft pick Jared Goff, the Cleveland Browns’ Cody Kessler and Chicago’s Matt Barkley.
As Marks and Luani cycled through the combine drills with more than 300 other NFL hopefuls, Cracraft hit a new milestone of his own – last week, for the first time since his injury, Cracraft was able to cut and change direction while running.
“It’s not full speed cuts, and I’m not even full speed (running) straight ahead yet, it’s like 85 percent. But it’s coming along,” Cracraft said in a phone interview this week. “I’m just waiting for the knee to strengthen up. You’ve got to wait for it to get pretty strong before you start pounding it.”
All this interminable waiting has been tortuous for Cracraft, who says he’s not, by nature, a patient person.
So even though he won’t be running the 40 yard dash or showing off his routes at Pro Day, Cracraft is excited to at least get to bench press and meet with NFL scouts.
“I’ve been focusing on the bench press for pro day because that’s the only event I’m doing. I’ve been focusing a lot on that to show teams that I’m committed in the weight room,” Cracraft said. “I want to show people that I’m here, I’m not doing nothing. I’m working hard.
“I’d just like to get in a bunch of people’s faces and show them I’m in good spirits, I’m happy with where I’m at (in rehab), I’m here to play ball, and this is nothing but a bump in the road.”
Riley Sorenson: Same place, new routines
After the Cougars’ bowl game last December, unlike most of WSU’s 2016 senior class, which scattered all over the country, center Riley Sorenson returned to Pullman and picked up where he left off – going back to class to finish his degree while training for Pro Day with WSU’s strength coaching staff.
Sorenson was originally on track to graduate last December, but his testicular cancer diagnosis last summer set him back.
So after Sorenson signed with Tier 1 Sports Management, he opted to stay in Pullman to finish two final classes instead of going off to train at a facility elsewhere.
Sorenson says it’s been nice to be around his football teammates even though he’s no longer part of the team.
He lives with his girlfriend and WSU defensive lineman Garrett McBroom, and trains at the football facility, so “I don’t feel totally separated because I see them all the time,” Sorenson said. “I’m there every day.”
Last Sunday, Spokane native and former WSU offensive lineman Joe Dahl – a fifth round draft pick by the Detroit Lions in 2016 – came out to Pullman to help Sorenson and fellow draft hopeful Eduardo Middleton prep for Pro Day.
Dahl’s advice for Sorenson and Middleton: Don’t sweat the number on the stopwatch.
As an offensive lineman, the most important component of the 40-yard dash is the first 10 yards.
“He basically reinforced the whole thing that how you do time-wise in drills don’t necessarily matter,” Sorenson said. “It’s more, ‘Can you bend? Can you be athletic? Can you move your feet well and move your hips well?’ Everything like that is what they care about. How you do in the drills doesn’t necessarily matter as much.”
Gabe Marks: Audition over
Marks performed well enough at the NFL combine that he’s decided to stand by his combine numbers, and will only be running routes at Pro Day.
Marks clocked 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, managed 11 repetitions on the bench press, had a 29.5-inch vertical jump and a 117-inch broad jump and ran the three-cone drill in 7.01 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.2 seconds.
“My 40 was good,” Marks said. “I guess people thought I was slower than a 4.5, which I (felt) kinda disrespected (by), I guess. I ran the 40 well, and ran good routes.”
With long days full of important meetings punctuated by a lot of time spent waiting around, the combine experience was stressful, Marks said.
During his meetings with NFL teams, he was peppered with questions about his background, his personality and his football smarts.
“They ask you where you’re from and stuff, and how you grew up, and how you are in the locker room, and what would your coaches say about you,” Marks said. “They already know this stuff. They just want to see what you say versus what your coaches say.”
Former WSU players who will participate in Pro Day:
- DL Robert Barber
- DB Treshon Broughton
- WR River Cracraft
- DB Shalom Luani
- WR Gabe Marks
- OL Eduardo Middleton
- DL Jeremiah Mitchell
- OL Riley Sorenson
- LB Paris Taylor
- WR John Thompson